Indian fry bread

Navajo Taco Fry Bread (Indian Fry Bread)

Indian Fry Bread is a flatbread that is crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Fill them with whatever taco fillings and toppings you like and you have a Navajo Taco, the food that is at the top of my list of comfort foods!

Imagine a soft and chewy piece of still-warm fried dough, drizzled with sweet honey that drips down your chin when you take a bite. That was my first experience with Indian Fry Bread at a state fair in Arizona in the 1980’s.

What is the origin of the Navajo Taco Fry Bread?

Although the history of Fry Bread is painful, it is important to know and to celebrate the resilience of the people that created it.

Navajo Fry Bread was created in 1864 by people of the Navajo Tribe in Arizona.

The forced deportation of thousands of Navajo from Arizona to New Mexico at the hands of the government caused hundreds of deaths. The 300-mile trek was long and arduous and the Navajo were not told where they were going or how long it would take.

This trek is called the Long Walk of the Navajo, or the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo. Bosque Redondo was the destination near Fort Sumner in eastern New Mexico.

Upon resettlement, the Navajo were given meager rations to survive. The new land would not support their traditional crops such as corn, squash and beans so they were forced to use the rations to create other foods.

Large amounts of processed flour, sugar and lard were provided. While not healthy, these ingredients were easy to put together to make a staple in their new diet.

This is how the Navajo Taco Fry Bread was born.

This Fry Bread has been adopted by other tribes and is now also called Indian Fry Bread.

You can learn so much more about the topic on the website of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian HERE.

Navajo Tacos with shredded spiced chicken, red onions, olives, avocados, sour cream and cheese!

Fry bread has been passed from generation to generation

Indian Fry Bread was developed out of necessity by a resilient and strong people.

Traditional recipes and techniques are passed down from generation to generation and still commonly made today in homes. Indian Fry Bread is also served at large gatherings and festivals in the Southwest of the US.

A common technique is to make a hole in the center of the fry bread with your thumb once you have stretched or rolled it into a disk. This keeps large air pockets from taking over the entire bread and essentially creating a pita.

I have not made a hole in the recipe below due to the fact that we were using them for tacos. A hole in the center would make for a messy taco!

Yeasted vs. non-yeasted fry bread

The variations for Fry Bread are vast. Some recipes that I have seen don’t even include measurements because they are taught by hand, in-person, as they are passed down in a family.

These are the true recipes that I prefer to follow!

Since yeast was not one of the ingredients that was provided to the Navajo in the rations, I have normally seen recipes for Fry bread without yeast.

Some recipes do contain yeast and may be just as delicious as those without. But for the purpose of authenticity, I make non-yeasted fry bread.

Ways to use this Indian Fry Bread Recipe

The uses for this fry bread recipe are endless!

Since the title of this post talks about tacos, that one seems obvious.

Tacos, as most people know them, are served in tortillas. But those same delicious toppings and fillings can be served in this fry bread to make a Navajo Taco with this soft and chewy fried bread.

Top with meats, beans, vegetables, salsa, and cheese. Be creative! Make a taco bar and let everyone make their own! The possibilities are endless!

My first fry bread was drizzled with honey at a state fair and it was absolute perfection! It was warm, and sweet and soft and chewy.

I’m feeling the urge to go make some RIGHT NOW!

I also think that a slightly different version that would be a winner for dessert is to drizzle with warm peanut butter and some hot fudge.

I mean, not health food but you gotta’ splurge sometimes, right?

Making Easy Indian Fry Bread for Tacos

The process to make this Fry Bread for Navajo Tacos couldn’t be easier.

There isn’t a lot of mixing or mess. The kneading time is minimal and the rolling can be done by hand or with a rolling pin, whichever you prefer.

First, mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir or sift them together to combine them.

Add the warm water and stir with a fork. You can also use your hands here but that may be a little more messy.

Once the dough has come together in a ball, dump it out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough by hand for about 4 to 5 minutes.

Place the dough back into the bowl, cover it with a tea towel or cling film and set aside for about a half hour.

In some Native American homes, the dough is made in the morning and a chunk is torn off when bread is needed. This dough is so forgiving and versatile!

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 8 equal portions. You can just estimate this and pinch the pieces off. I prefer to use a bench scraper to cut the pieces apart.

Now, shape the dough however is easiest for you. You can press it out into a circle with your fingers on the counter, rolling it out with a rolling pin, or stretch it out similar to my pizza dough technique seen HERE.

Don’t roll too thin!

The trick to rolling/stretching these out is to not make them too thin. Once they are about 6 inches in diameter, stop rolling or stretching!

I had a tendency at first to roll them bigger, which also meant that they were thinner. This created a crispy bread, instead of soft and flexible the way it should be.

Take a look at the photo above. You can see that the thinner pieces didn’t puff up and were more crispy…not what you are going for here!

Lay the discs on the counter and cover with a tea towel or cling film while you heat up the oil.

Use a thermometer to make sure that the oil is between 350F and 360F. If the temperature is too low, the bread will absorb oil. If the temperature is too high, the bread will be too hard on the outside and possibly not cooked in the center.

Add one or two pieces of dough to the pan at a time (depends on the size of your pan) and fry on one side until golden brown. This took me about 1 minute to 1 minute 20 seconds.

Carefully flip the bread with tongs or a spatula and fry on the other side.

Remove from the oil and allow to drain on a paper towel.

If desired, set your oven to the ‘warm’ setting – about 200F. Place the bread in the oven on a cookie sheet as you fry to other pieces and get the toppings ready.

Indian Fry Bread is best eaten while still warm on the day that it is made.

This recipe doubles perfectly if you need more than 8 pieces.

Navajo Taco

Recipe by Tanya Ott


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 250 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 240 mL (1 cup) warm water

  • Toppings
  • Ground meat, browned and seasoned

  • Carnitas

  • Beans

  • Chili

  • Shredded chicken

  • Corn

  • Tomatoes

  • Peppers

  • Avocado

  • Pico de gallo

  • Sour Cream

  • Cheese

  • For a Dessert Option:
  • Sprinkle with powdered sugar

  • Drizzle with honey


  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir together well to incorporate the ingredients. Slowly add the warm water and mix using a fork until a dough forms. 
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and cover with a kitchen towel.
  • Let the dough rest for 30 minutes. 
  • Divide the dough into 8 equal portions by pinching off balls of dough that are about the size of a golf ball. Either pat the dough out into a circle or roll out the dough balls into roughly 6-inch discs on a lightly floured surface.  Keep the rolled-out disks covered with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel while you prepare the rest of the disks and heat the oil.
  • Heat 3 cups of oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the oil temperature reaches between 350F and 360F.  Working in batches, fry the dough until it is golden brown on one side, then carefully flip and fry on the other side. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel to drain. The fry bread can be kept warm in the oven on the warm setting (about 200F) while the other fry bread is fried and other ingredients are prepped.
  • Serve with whatever tacos toppings you prefer and have on hand. For a dessert option, drizzle with honey or sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Navajo Taco Fry Bread


  1. I have always wanted to try these so making these today when the whole fam is here. Hubs currently smoking carnitas. (fyi typo in #5, line 5 of directions: wetting/setting). Thank you so much for sharing this! Should be an easy & fun meal for a Sunday!

  2. wonderful post, Tanya! I had my encounters with Indian Fry Bread in Oklahoma, there was a restaurant we used to go to often and they proudly served it – I never tried to make it, and this is the first time I see a recipe for it. You know, feijoada, the Brazilian most authentic dish, also has a sad story, made by slaves with the parts of the pig that were discarded by the white people – amazing how resilient people can be, and how humans have mistreated other humans over our history. This too must change.

    • Tanya Ott

      Thank you, Sally! I will admit that I didn’t know the story of where Fry Bread came from for a very long time. But it is so important to acknowledge the history!

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